BY ANDREW SMITH
MITCHELL – Despite having to cancel the closing day of the 100th International Plowing Match and Rural Expo due to weather, IPM chairman Bert Vorstenbosch has heard nothing but good things about the event.
Vorstenbosch said the decision to cancel the fifth day of the IPM came after heavy rains left the fields near Mitchell flooded, and no one was allowed on site for safety reasons.
“We had four great days, and there’s nothing we can do about the weather,” Vorstenbosch said. “We had a good plowing match, we just missed out on the big day.”
This marks only the second time that the IPM has been cancelled in 100 years, with the 1954 match shut down for a day when Hurricane Hazel stormed through Waterloo County. The weather was a much different picture on Tuesday, Sept. 17 for the opening of the centennial match, as Vorstenbosch gave credit to all the volunteers who helped make the event possible.
“They all make me look good,” he said. “Everyone says I’ve done a great job, but it’s those 1,400 volunteers that are making it really great for this whole week.”
Vorstenbosch also thanked all of the landowners who have helped create the event, especially host family Jan and Theresia van Nuland of Nulandia Farms.
“I’ve watched them farm here ever since they’ve come here, they’re good stewards of the land and they are great people,” he said.
CTV broadcaster Lloyd Robertson served as Grand Marshall for the opening day parade and master of ceremonies, which also included greetings from across Perth County and the province. Premier Kathleen Wynne congratulated the Ontario Plowmen’s Association and the International Plowing Match for their 100th year.
“It takes hundreds of volunteers to put together an event like this,” she said. “Congratulations to you all.”
“We are all here todaycause of the important role that agriculture and rural Ontario play in this province,” Wynne continued. “The International Plowing Match is an example of how communities come together, and is a chance to demonstrate your hard work and skill.”
Wynne was unable to ignore the signs of protesters at the opening ceremonies, representing close to 70 communities across Ontario who have declared themselves as unwilling hosts for industrial wind turbines. Wynne addressed them and the crowd in general, insisting that urban and rural Ontario need to find a way to work together.
“I see the signs at the back here and I understand there are challenges and there are places we disagree, but I want you to know that I believe that we are a government for one Ontario,” Wynne said. “I don’t believe that it serves the province, that it serves any of us, to foster those divisions.”
Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak also made comments that reflected the ongoing fight against wind turbines in rural Ontario, stating that farmers deserve more respect from all politicians and it saddens him to see beautiful rural views spoiled by forced wind turbines.
“As far as I’m concerned, friends, respect for rural Ontario means to stop the wind turbines,” Hudak said.
Perth-Wellington MP Gary Schellenberger said he remembers a number of past plowing matches in Perth County, starting with the 1972 Sebringville event in his hometown where he remembers the winning goal from Paul Henderson in the 1972 Summit Series.
“I know where I was, I was at the plowing match in the beer tent because it was the only place there were televisions,” he said. “When that goal was scored I swear the roof was raised five feet.”
MPP Randy Pettapiece kept his speech to the point, expressing his pride in being a part of the 100th IPM anniversary.
“I am so honoured and so proud to be the MPP here in Perth-Wellington,” he said. “It’s just an unbelievable thing.”
Speaking on Monday, Vorstenbosch said there were approximately 16,000 visitors through the gates on each day of the IPM, and that all feedback indicates that the 100th IPM will go down as one of the best ever.
“I have not heard one bad comment about those four days, everyone thought it was the greatest match ever,” he said. “People were really happy with the four days we had.”